Top Prep Locations for Brides (and Grooms too!) – In and Around the City of Pittsburgh
Kristen, is this a top 10 list? A top 20? Nope – this list is fluid and I continue to add to it as I photograph more and more weddings! These prep locations are some of my favorites for lighting, space, location, and timing needs – so if you’re searching for a hotel or prep space, feel free to use these suggestions!
You’ve chosen your location for your ceremony and reception. Did you know there’s another location you need to choose? Where will you be getting dressed?
Here at KWP, I always start wedding day coverage with details and getting ready shots. It is a great time for candids with family and the bridal party. The best possible location (and most importantly light) will enhance those images.
For the best possible getting ready and detail images, here are a few secrets to thinking like a photographer:
If the ceremony or reception site has a bridal suite, check to see if it will work for you. The biggest challenge with a ceremony or reception site bridal suite for getting dressed is timing. At many venues, the time to access the getting ready suite is limited. If you can’t get the bridal suite all day (starting at around 8 am for most afternoon weddings), it may be best to choose another location.
If you like the look of the bridal suite, but the timing won’t work, you can always get a few “touching up” shots once we arrive after having done your actual dressing elsewhere.
Talk to me about your venue prep space and I can give you my opinion and recommendations for best results.
Consider renting a hotel suite near your ceremony venue. And consider having the groom get ready somewhere nearby as well – the tips in this section apply to his prep too! Having the groom nearby (at a private home or another hotel/at the venue) can allow me to photograph the groom and groom’s prep images with the best results. Both parties will want to avoid long drives between the prep location and ceremony. I’d be happy to provide some recommendations for the best getting ready hotels. This list is in no way all inclusive, but is just some examples of some places I’ve loved for space, layout, and lighting:
AirBnBs and Private Home
Doubletree Monroeville – King Corner Large Room
Hyatt Regency Airport – Conference Suite
Sheraton Station Square – King Deluxe River Room or King Sheraton Club Guest Room
Wyndham Grand Four Bedroom Presidential Suite – perfect for large bridal parties
Wyndham Grand – Junior Suite or Hospitality Suite
Omni William Penn – suites or any room that faces outward to the street for best light! (avoid the inward facing rooms as they are dark – ask for a large room)
Homewood Suites Southpointe – the suburban sleeper, this one is! I ADORED the room we had here once – two restrooms, long and narrow living space with tons of windows for each makeup artist. This is a great option for Bella Sera and Southpointe Golf Club weddings! Ask for the Executive Suite when you call!
Mansions on Fifth – Presidential Suite
Priory Townhouse – get the one on the same side of the street as the Priory courtyard – right next door! (there’s also another pretty two room suite here with a big mirror in the master bedroom as well that could be a nice option!)
Hotel Monaco – Suite
*Don’t see your hotel listed here? Don’t worry! Contact me and I might be able to give you advice on that particular hotel! For example, at the Home2Suites in McCandless Crossing, you want the room that is a suite with a separate living room and not the all in one room due to the location of the bed! At the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh-Cranberry, you ideally will have a room available to you that doesn’t open its windows into the inner court, lest guests see you dressing. The best bet are the exterior facing rooms! Let us know your location and we will tell you our previous experiences if we have any to share and rest assured, we will always make it work no matter what.
And here’s some more general tips! My booked clients get ALL my prep location tips in our Wedding Guide!
When choosing a getting ready location, look for windows. A great window can make for nice portraits and getting ready shots. Some hotels have the window obstructed by the A/C unit below it, which isn’t ideal – the bigger the window, the better!
In a hotel, a larger room is better. In my experience, any more than four ladies is a tight fit in a standard sized hotel room. A hotel suite will allow you to have the most flexibility and multiple rooms.
It may be best if the bridesmaids use their individual rooms at the same hotel to store their things and get dressed or arrive dressed to the bride’s room if space is limited. It’s best if there are other rooms someone in your party is using at the hotel both the night before and the night of the wedding (more on why later in the chapter.)
You could also get two adjoining rooms for getting ready if you have a few ladies with you.
In a hotel or a private home, you don’t want a room crammed with furniture. A room with a single bed works better than a room with two doubles. In a private home and even in some hotels, don’t be alarmed if I clear out some of the furniture. Rooms filled with furniture make it difficult to get a lot of the bridesmaids in the shot, for example.
I’ll do a little cleaning up for you, so it’s best if the bags have a place to go. This brings me back to my previous point, about the bridesmaids having rooms on site.
It’s great if at least some of the bridal party or your parents also have a room in the hotel the night before the wedding and the night of the wedding.
This gives more space, more bathroom facilities to use, and a place for suitcases and bags that isn’t in the bride’s room.
Moving bags and suitcases around involves a lot of logistics and time on the wedding day. If just one or two bridesmaids need to take their bag out to the car or transfer things to another room, it adds time to your wedding day. (The bridesmaids’ bags and gear is not usually as much of a problem in a private home, where there is more space.)
Side note: If you and the groom are coming back to the room that night, do you want to be interrupted by your bridesmaid needing to get her things from your room?!
When the main room is filled with hair, makeup, and ladies, I’ve even taken the bride to the bride’s mom’s clean, fresh room to save time and give a pristine look to the images. I am always on the lookout for the best getting dressed spot.If a standard sized hotel room doesn’t work, ask about a (sometimes complimentary) conference room (remember the windows!) for at least part of the prep. Some of my brides have had great success with hair and makeup being done in a spare conference room, then moving upstairs for the actual dressing. This is a great option.
Occasionally, I may use the same room (at a non-hotel venue) for the guys and girls, and I will have the groups swap. There have been times where the groom was placed in a gorgeous room with great light while the bride was downstairs in a locker room. Or there have been times the men were in the basement while the ladies had a spacious, pristine suite with many rooms.
In these rare cases, I may perform very strategic swaps for the actual dressing of the bride or groom only. I may have the groom dress in the optimal room, do his photos, and then bring the ladies to the optimal room while the guys are sent to wait in the golf club bar, for example. I want both members of the couple to have the best possible images and in a situation where one room clearly stands out as the best – I want to take advantage of that. So don’t be surprised if I suggest this to you.
Don’t worry about having a showroom ready home if you choose to dress at home. I’m most concerned about lighting and adequate space than the most up to date decor. Spotless housekeeping is not required, as long as there is space to move around. I’ve worked everywhere from modest apartments to the largest homes, and I’m always happy to talk with you about your needs and concerns.
I may ask you to pull up the dress and get decent in a room (in a private home or at a golf club, for example) where you are comfortable, then come out to a perfect lighting location for the final zipping, buttoning, and fastening.
Make sure you and your family are comfortable with the getting ready location. If you are using a parent’s home, make sure they understand I may move furniture around or take a peek in a few rooms (with permission, of course) to choose the best dressing spot. I will also likely turn off the lights and move some lamps around – just ignore my behind the scenes work.
For a very stress-free getting dressed experience, a hotel may work best. This can be the best option if you or your future spouse don’t want to feel pressure to clean up the day before everyone descends on the home.
When talking about hotel rooms, you will need to rent the rooms used for both the night before and the night of the wedding. Check-in and checkout times are not wedding friendly. You will need to have the room for both nights and not rely on checking in or out of a getting ready room on your wedding day – there’s simply too much to do.
No matter where you or the groom choose to get dressed, I will work hard to find the best spot and the most beautiful lighting locations!